Monday, May 09, 2016

Republicans Use The Same Lesser-Of-Two-Evils" Argument That Hillary Supporters Use


When he was running against Trump, Rick Perry said "he offers a barking carnival act that can be best described as Trumpism: a toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness and nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition if pursued. Let no one be mistaken--Donald Trump’s candidacy is a cancer on conservatism, and it must be clearly diagnosed, excised, and discarded." Thursday Perry discarded his diagnosis and announced he would not just vote for this cancer on conservatism but will do everything he can to help get him elected. Marveling at Trump's marketing and branding skills, he told CNN that Trump "is one of the most talented people who has ever run for the president I have ever seen." Hillary's campaign pointed out that Perry had once remarked that Trump's "comments... should completely and immediately disqualify him from seeking our nation’s highest office." But poor Rick Perry isn't the only GOP opportunist who's changed his tune on Trump.

Poor Dr. Ben who once warned Republicans that Trump's "level of dishonesty... should be something that concerns all of you guys" is now heading up Trump's search for a running mate. He hasn't quite allowed himself to be debased on a Chris Christie level... but he's just a couple steps away.

And speaking of poor Christie, who was just named the head of Trump's transition team, often referred to Trump as "a carnival barker" and warned Republicans that "showtime is over; we are not selecting an entertainer-in-chief," which is an indictment of Trump that sounds a lot like what President Obama had to say about him Friday, is now a professional Trump sidekick and punching bag.

Little Marco, sweating for the VP nod-- or at least a cabinet gig in an administration that will never be-- has come around to seeing Trump as a fine potential president. Just last March he had told fellow Republicans that Trump is "the most vulgar person ever to aspire to the presidency," noting 2 weeks alter that he is "absurd, offensive, [and] ridiculous." Rubio warned Republicans Trump is "a con artist" who is "an embarrassment" and "unelectable" and that he "has not proven an understanding of these issues or the preparation necessary to be the Commander-in-Chief of the most powerful military force in the world." Those were the days he was laughing at Trump for spraying on orange tans and wearing pancake makeup and insinuating Trump's howling personality defects stemmed from a complex developed because of a small, deformed penis.

Thursday, Trump told Fox News viewers that "We always had a very good relationship, Marco and I. And then it got a little bit nasty for a period of time. And then we had the election. That was a tough time for Marco. Marco’s a good guy. A really nice guy. And I like him. But not necessarily with respect to any position (on the ticket). But it could happen."

Until he endorsed Trump the other day as a kind of lesser-of-two-evils, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul always seemed outraged that Trump admitted on the debate stage that it was his practice to buy (like in "bribe") politicians. Yes, that even sounds wrong to some Republican politicians. But there was more that Paul understood about Trump that freaked him out-- and rightfully so: "What worries me most about Donald Trump other than all the other crazy things is that I believe that he wants power." Remember when you thought Rand Paul seemed a kind of serious when he asked if the emperor has any clothes brains?

Now Paul is tarnishing his own brand by cuddling up with Trump. A libertarian publication, explained the invocation Paul is making about Trump being a lesser-of-two-evils:
"You know, I've always said I will endorse the nominee," said Paul. "I think it's almost a patriotic duty of anyone in Kentucky to oppose the Clintons, because I think they're rotten to the core, I think they're dishonest people, and ultimately I think we have to be concerned with what's best for Kentucky."

Paul cited Clinton's recent comments about eliminating coal jobs as reason enough for Kentucky voters to oppose her.

The libertarian-leaning Republican isn't wrong about Clinton's awfulness. But Trump-- a thin-skinned lunatic who peddles conspiracy theories, encourages violence and censorship, prefers big government, and loathes the free market-- is just as bad, and arguably much worse, including and especially from a libertarian perspective.

There is virtually no issue where Trump's views align with libertarianism (his continued support for eminent domain, a policy that virtually no one else in the GOP or libertarian movement supports, is perhaps the best example of this). And while it's true that some conservatives can be counted on to advance libertarian positions on a handful of issues, this doesn't apply to Trump, because he isn't even a conservative. He's a member of the authoritarian populist right-- a segment of the population that shares nothing in common with libertarianism.

Paul knows all this, of course. To his credit, he was one of the first Republican presidential candidates to stand up to Trump on the debate stage. (Trump, demonstrating his remarkable lack of self-awareness, responded by mocking Paul's hair.) I presume that at this point, Paul thinks it's best for his political future if he doesn't burn any additional bridges with Trump people.

He may wish to reconsider that, however. A whole host of influential, thoughtful Republicans are refusing to support Trump. Paul Ryan has declined to back Trump (at least "for now," he said). Mitt Romney will not endorse Trump. National Review writers are openly considering voting for likely Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson. Republican strategist Mary Matalin has officially switched her party identification to Libertarian.

Given that conservatives and Republicans can't bring themselves to vote for Trump, it would be a little bizarre for the nation's most well-known libertarian-leaning Republican politician to endorse the least libertarian GOP nominee since Richard Nixon.
Last week Bobby Jindal also joined the lesser-of-two-evils Trumpist Society. "I do think he'll be better than Hillary Clinton, I don't think it's a great set of choices. If he is the nominee, I'm going to be supporting my party's nominee. I'm not happy about it ... but I would vote for him over Hillary Clinton." He must have a very low opinion of Hillary. Before dropping out of the presidential race he told Republican voters that Trump is an "unserious and unstable narcissist" with "no understanding of policy." Jindal was cutting: "He's full of bluster but has no substance. He lacks the intellectual curiosity to even learn." But now he's fit for the White House? OK. Jindal penned an OpEd for the Wall Street Journal on his new found Trumpism yesterday. "I was one of the earliest and loudest critics of Mr. Trump," he claimed. "I mocked his appearance, demeanor, ideology and ego in the strongest language I have ever used to publicly criticize anyone in politics. I worked harder than most, with little apparent effect, to stop his ascendancy. I have not experienced a sudden epiphany and am not here to detail an evolution in my perspective... I think electing Donald Trump would be the second-worst thing we could do this November, better only than electing Hillary Clinton to serve as the third term for the Obama administration’s radical policies. I am not pretending that Mr. Trump has suddenly become a conservative champion or even a reliable Republican: He is completely unpredictable. The problem is that Hillary is predictably liberal... I do not pretend Donald Trump is the Reaganesque leader we so desperately need, but he is certainly the better of two bad choices. Hardly an inspiring slogan, I know. It would be better to vote for a candidate rather than simply against one."

At least the #NeverTrump crowd doesn't have to eat crow while bending over backwards to find something good to say about him. Jeb Bush-- like the other Bush's won't vote for him, let alone campaign for him. I'd bet that in the privacy of a voting booth he'll vote for Hillary, the more dependable conservative in the race. Jeb never veered away from reminding Republican voters that Trump is "not qualified to be president" as well as "not the Commander-in-Chief we would need to keep our country safe" and just "an actor playing the role of the candidate for president" who is "one part unhinged and one part foolish." He also publicly called him "a jerk" and "misinformed at best" who "doesn't believe in the greatness of our country." For his part, Trump said he doesn't want Bush's endorsement, although he has been blasting Bush and Graham for not honoring their pledge to support the winner of the primary. I sometimes guess duty to country must trump duty to Reince Priebus.

Lindsey Graham won't vote for him either and how could he, after calling him "a nut job" and a "race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot" who is "ill-suited for the job" and "a loser as a person." He accused him not just of being "unfit to be commander-in-chief" but of "helping the enemy of this nation," empowering radical Islam" and "undercutting everything we stand for." Like most Americans Graham thinks Trump "doesn't have a clue about anything" and that Trump in the White House "would lead to another 9/11." Graham likes Clinton and sees eye to eye with her on foreign policy and on the military and I know for sure he's looking forward to voting for her.

Romney hasn't run against Trump-- though many people are urging him to, as a third party conservative-- and he's sticking by his judgment that Trump is "a phony" and "a fraud" who "lacks the temperament to be president" and is "playing the American people for suckers." Trump, he doesn't hesitate to tell people is "very, very not smart" when it comes to foreign policy.

Cruz, Fiorina and Kasich haven't announced their intentions towards Trump yet, although it might be galling for Kasich to walk back his comment about Trump having "created a toxic atmosphere, pitting in group against another and name calling." I guess for a VP nomination, though...

No one was more allied with Trump for most of the campaign more more personally vitriolic about him than Cruz, who harbors more disdain and sheer hatred for Trump than anyone else who ran, calling him "a pathological liar," "utterly amoral," "a bully," "a narcissist at a level I don't think this country has ever seen," and "a sniveling coward." He told the country that Trump "will betray you on every issue across the board," while being "out of his depth" and "intricately involved in the corruption of Washington for 40 years." How do you pivot away from that? I wouldn't be surprised if he waits a week or two and shows us exactly how.

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